What Is A Wet Dream And Why Do They Happen?

4 minute read

If you’ve ever woken up and noticed that you’ve orgasmed in your sleep, you’ve just had a wet dream. Wet dreams, or nocturnal emissions, are totally normal and can happen for a lot of different reasons. There’s no one cause for a wet dream, but surprisingly wet dreams usually don’t happen because you’ve had a sex dream. Learn more about wet dreams, why they happen, and what they mean.

What is a wet dream?

A wet dream, also known as nocturnal emission, is when you orgasm and/or ejaculate during sleep. While sex dreams can cause a wet dream, they can also happen totally spontaneously, without a sex-related thought. A wet dream happens spontaneously, and doesn’t involve touching yourself during sleep. They often happen during puberty when there is an increase of sex hormones being produced in the body.

Are wet dreams normal?

Yes, wet dreams are normal. Wet dreams happen most commonly during puberty but can happen through adulthood, too. They are often unrelated to sexual thoughts or dreams, but are normal ways for the body to physically release during sleep. If you think you are having wet dreams too often, however, consider talking to a doctor or therapist to see if there are any physical or emotional reasons you are having wet dreams too frequently for your personal comfort.

What causes wet dreams / Why do wet dreams happen

Here are few causes of wet dreams: 

  • Adolescence or puberty mean an increase in hormones, like testosterone, and can cause wet dreams. 
  • Being sexually inactive for a period of time. This can cause your body to release during sleep. 
  • While there is no evidence that sex dreams cause wet dreams, some people believe thinking about, watching or listening to something erotic before bed may be a potential culprit. 
  • Taking testosterone-based drugs can cause nocturnal emissions. 
  • Stress may cause wet dreams.
Why do men have wet dreams?

Men experience wet dreams, also known as nocturnal emissions, most commonly during puberty, though they can experience them into adulthood, too. Men have wet dreams mostly during puberty because the body is producing more testosterone. Some studies have shown that more testosterone and/or a lack of sexual activity may cause men to have wet dreams. Erotic thoughts before bed or feeling stressed may also be reasons men have wet dreams.

Do women have wet dreams?

Yes, women have wet dreams. While vaginal wetness during sleep does not necessarily mean a woman has a wet dream, it is possible for women to spontaneously orgasm during sleep.

What causes wet dreams in females?

While wet dreams in females has not been as widely studied as it has been in males, women have wet dreams for similar reasons as men. Here are two potential causes of wet dreams in women: 

  • Sexual inactivity for long periods of time. While wet dreams are not necessarily linked to arousal in sleep or sex dreams, a lack of sexual activity for long periods of time may cause the body to release during sleep. 
  • Stress. Wet dreams are often totally unrelated to sex. They could be a sign you are stressed or something else in your life is going on that’s causing your body to want to physically release.
How to get a wet dream?

Having a wet dream on purpose can be difficult as there’s not much evidence that sex dreams directly cause wet dreams. But some people anecdotally say thinking about sexy things before bed has worked for them. So, if you’re wondering how to get a wet dream, you can try doing things that turn you on: watch porn, read erotica, imagine a person or situation you like, or try masturbating without orgasming. 

Like any type of dream, it can be difficult to control whether or not you have a wet dream unless you’ve mastered the art of lucid dreaming — gaining enough consciousness during sleep that you’re able to control the direction of the dream.

How to stop wet dreams?

Since wet dreams happen while you’re asleep, they are difficult to stop. There are a few things you can try, however. 

  • Masturbate. While wet dreams are not necessarily connected to sexual thoughts, masturbating before bed might lessen the need for your body to release during sleep. That said, there is not much research backing this up and masturbation will not prevent wet dreams, only potentially reduce the number you have. 
  • Meditate. Sometimes, wet dreams may simply be caused by stressed. Relaxing and meditating before bed might help. 
  • More sex. If you have a partner, communicate ways in which you’d like to strengthen your sex life. While wet dreams aren’t necessarily a reflection of how your sex life is going, it can’t hurt to have more waking sex if that’s what you and your partner want. 
  • Don’t sleep on your tummy. Sleeping on your side or your back may reduce the number of wet dreams you have. Only one study supports this, however. 
  • Communicate. Talking to a therapist may uncover some issue in your life (that could be totally unrelated to sex) that is causing the wet dreams, if the frequency is bothering you.

Contrary to popular belief, there’s not much evidence showing sex dreams or erotic thoughts cause wet dreams. Wet dreams can be caused by stress, a lack of sexual activity, hormones pumping through your body, or other reasons. Whether or not you enjoy a wet dream, just know a wet dream is your body’s way of processing physical and/or emotional information. That’s why wet dreams are totally normal.

Louise Bourchier, MPH

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Louise Bourchier is a sex educator and sex researcher with 8 years experience in the field. She teaches about sexual health, sexual pleasure, and communication in relationships through workshops, live-streams, and with written content. Using a sex-positive approach, a dash of humour, and bag full of fun props, Louise’s style of sex education for adults is not what you got in high school! Since 2011 she has taught over a hundred workshops to a wide range of audiences, from university students, to refugees, to medical professionals, to adult store clientele. She has a Masters of Public Health, and is currently a PhD candidate.

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